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also the language of Pyrrhonism and doubt, is matter of confirmation to those who believe.
Few men speak humbly of humility, or chastely of chastity, few of scepticism with real doubtfulness of mind. We are nothing but falsehood, duplicity, and contradiction. We hide and disguise ourselves from ourselves.
21. Concealed good actions are the most estimable of all. When I discover such in history, they delight me much. Yet even these cannot have been altogether hidden, because they have been so recorded; and even the degree in wbich they have come to light, detracts from their merit, for their finest trait is the wish to conceal them.
22. Your sayer of smart things, has a bad heart.
23. This I is hateful; and those who do not renounce it, who seek no further than to cover it, are always hateful also. Not at all, say you, for if we act obligingly to all men, they have no reason to hate
That is true, if there were nothing hateful in that I, but the inconvenience which it administers. But if I hate it, because it is essentially unjust, because it makes itself the centre of every thing, I shall hate it always. In fact, this I has two bad qualities. It is essentially unjust, because it will be the centre of all things; it is an annoyance to others, because it will serve itself by them; for each individual I is the enemy, and would be the tyrant of all others. Now you may remove the annoyance, but not the radical injustice, and hence you cannot make it acceptable to those who abhor its injustice; you may make it pleasing to the unjust who no longer discover their enemy, but you remain unjust yourself, and cannot be pleasing therefore but to similar persons.
24. I cannot admire the man who possesses one virtue in high perfection, if he does not, at the same time, possess the opposite virtue in an equal degree; as in the case of Epaminondas, who united the extremes of valor and of meekness; without this, it is not an elevated, but a fallen character. Greatness does not consist in being at one extreme, but in reach
ing both extremes at once, and occupying all the intermediate space.
Perhaps this is in no than a sudden movement of the soul, from one extreme to the other, and, like a burning brand, whirled quickly round in a circle, it is never but in one point of its course at a time. Still this indicates the energy of the soul, if not its expansion.
25. If our condition were really happy, there were no need to divert us from thinking of it.
26 I have spent much time in the study of the abstract sciences; but the paucity of persons with whom you can communicate on such subjects, disgusted me with them. When I began to study man, I saw that these abstract sciences are not suited to him, and that in diving into them, I wandered further from my real object, than those who knew them not, and I forgave them for not having attended to these things. I expected then, however, that I should find some panions in the study of man, since it was so specifically a duty. I was in error. There are fewer students of man, than of geometry.*
27. When all things move similarly, nothing moves apparently-as on board a ship. When all things glide similarly to disorder, nothing seems to be going wrong. He who stops, considers the rapid recession of others, an immoveable point.
28. Philosophers boast of having arranged all moral duties in a certain classification. But why divide them into four, rather than into six divisions. make four sorts of virtues rather than ten. range them under the general heads of abstine and sustine, rather than any others. But then, say you, here they are all reduced to a single word. Well, but that is quite useless without explanation; and as soon as you begin to explain, and you develope the general
* Pascal was correct. Of the thousands who write and har. angue upon the study of human nature, not more than one in a hundred knows what he means.
precept which contains all the others, they issue in the same confusion that at first you wished to avoid, and thus, in reducing them to one, you bide and nullify them; and to be made known, they must still come forth in their native confusion. Nature has given each an independent subsistence; and though you may thus arrange the one within the other, they must subsist independently of each other. So that these divisions and technical terms have little use, but to assist the memory, and to serve as guides to the several duties which they include.
29. To administer reproof with profit, and to shew another that he deceives bimself, we should notice on what side he really has considered the thing—for on that side he generally has a right impression—and admit there the accuracy of his views. This will please him, for he then perceives that as far as he did see, he was not in error, but that he failed only in not observing the matter on all sides. Now, a man is not ashamed of not perceiving every thing; but he does not like to blunder. And perhaps this arises from the fact, that naturally the mind cannot be deceived on the side on which it looks at things, any more than the senses can give a false report,
30. A man's virtue should not be measured by his occasional exertions, but by his ordinary doings.
31. The great and the little are subject to the same accidents, vexations, and passions; but the one class are at the end of the spoke of the wheel, and the other near the centre: and consequently, they are differently agitated by the same impulses.
32. Though men have no interests in what they are saying, it will not do to infer from that absolutely, that they are not guilty of falsehood; for there are some who lie, simply for lying sake.
33. The example of chastity in Alexander, has not availed to the same degree to make men chaste, as his drunkenness has to make them intemperate. Men are not ashamed not to be so virtuous as he; and it seems excusable not to be more vicious.' A man thinks that
he is not altogether sunk in the vices of the crowd, when he follows the vicious example of great men; but he forgets that in this respect they are associated with the multitude. He is linked with such men at the same point, at which they are linked with the people. However great they may be, they are associated at some point with the mass of mankind. They are not altogether suspended in mid air, and insulated from society. If they are greater than we; it is only that their heads are higher; but their feet are as low as
They are all on the same level—they tread the same earth; and, at this end they are brought equally low with ourselves, with infants, and with the brutes that perish.
34. It is the contest that delights us ; not the victory. We are pleased with the combat of animals, but not with the victor tearing the vanquished. What is sought for but the crisis of victory ? and the instant it comes, it brings satiety. It is the same in play, and the same on the search for truth. We love to watch in arguments the conflict of opinions; but as for the discovered truth, we do not care to look at that. To see it with pleasure, we must see it gradually emerging from the disputation. It is the same with the passions; the struggle of two contending passions has great interest; but the dominion of one is mere brutality. We do not seek for things themselves, but for the search after them. So on the stage, scenes without anxiety, miseries without hope, and merely brutal indulgencies, are accounted vapid and uninteresting:
35. Men are not taught to be honest, but they are taught every thing else.; and yet they pique themselves on this, above all things. They boast then only of knowing the only thing which they do not learn.
36. How weak was Montaigne's plan for exhibiting himself! and that not incidently and contrary to his avowed maxims, as most men contrive to betray themselves; but in accordance with his rule, and as his first and principal design. For to speak fooleries accidentally, and as a matter of weakness, is everyone's lot; but to do so designedly, and to speak such as he did, is beyond all bounds.
37. Pity for the unfortunate is no proof of virtue; on the contrary, it is found desirable to make this demonstration of humanity, and to acquire, at no expense, the reputation of tenderness. Pity therefore is little worth.
38. Would he who could boast the friendship of the Kings of England, and of Poland, and the Queen of Sweden, have believed that he might look through the world in vain for a home and a shelter ?*.
39. Things have various qualities, and the mind various inclinations; for nothing presents itself simply to the mind, neither does the mind apply itself simply to any subject. Hence, the same thing will at different times produce tears or laughter.
40. There are men of different classes, the powerful, the elegant, the kind, the pious, of which each one may reign in his own sphere, but not elsewhere. They come sometimes into collision, and contend who shall have the dominion; and most unwisely, for their mastery is in different matters. They do not understand one another.
They err in seeking an universal dominion. But nothing can accomplish this, not even force. Force can do nothing in the realms of science; it has no power but over external actions.
41. Ferox gens nullam esse vitam sine armis putat. They prefer death to peace: others prefer death to war. Every variety of opinion may be preferred to that life—the love of which appears so strong and so natural,
42. How difficult it is to propose a matter to another man's judgment, without corrupting his judgment by the manner in which it is proposed.
61 like this,” or, “ I think this obscure, we either en
If we say,
* The reference is to the contemporary sovereigns, Charles I. of England, John Casimir of Poland, and Christina Queen of Sweden.